What is a “First Look”?


Wedding day traditions typically mean the groom does not see the bride until the start of the ceremony, but there is an alternative growing trend.  The decision to opt for a “first look” session has many reasons, but most have a strong belief one way or the other.  Those that are set on tradition will inevitably coordinate the day so that the bride remains tucked away until the start of the ceremony.  Organizing the timeline to provide for a “first look” falls on the more practical mindset, who may be trying to provide a less stressful transition from ceremony to reception.  Of course the couple may be forced into seeing one another prior to the ceremony due to religious customs, but may still want to capture the emotion of seeing one another for the first time on their wedding day.


For those who do not want to adhere to tradition but still want to preserve the emotion and atmosphere of seeing one another for the first time on their wedding day, a “first look” session may be the solution.  In a “first look” the bride and groom see each other for the first time on the day of the wedding.  The “first look” is a moment that is carved out of the wedding day just for the bride and groom.  The idea is to get away from everyone so that it is just the bride, groom and photographer present.  It helps to have a coordinator to assist but once the “first look” is set in motion their job is done and the couple can be left to enjoy one another.  The photographer’s job is to capture the emotion of the moment without interfering or directing.  This should be a slice of time reserved for the couple, with the photographer only documenting.


The typical arrangement is for the photographer and bride to be at a pre-determined location waiting for the groom to arrive.  In this scenario the bride would have her back to the groom’s entrance and when all are ready the groom would be directed to enter and approach the bride from behind.  This would be the last direction the two are given, with only the photographer present to capture the exchange.  The “first look” occurs when the groom gets to his bride and she turns to see him.  In most cases the emotional atmosphere is far greater than that of the ceremony.  With the couple alone, they are free to embrace the moment uninhibited.


Much of the apprehension for a “first look” centers on what it is, and what it is not.  It is a moment for the bride and groom to embrace one another and share their feelings and emotions for one another.  It is not the time for a “first kiss” unless that has been discussed and agreed to by both beforehand.  It is a short moment for the two to enjoy, usually 5-15 minutes.  It is not a formal photo session with posing and directing. It should be remembered that the moment should be kept short and tailored to fit within the time line of the wedding day.


The “first look” will usually fall between the preparation (hair, make-up, dressing) and the ceremony.  In some cases the bride and groom may have to see one another before the ceremony so that “first look” session should come before that time.  It should be limited to a short amount of time, 5-15 minutes, just long enough for the bride and groom to share an emotional moment, discuss their feelings for one another, and recompose themselves.  The “first look” might precede the formal photo session with family, but whatever the schedule it should accommodated into the time-line.


I have touched on some advantages, but the greatest by far is the chance for the bride and groom to release some of the pre-ceremony tension they are sure to be feeling.  A “first look” session is also much easier for the photographer to cover and capture.  Trying to capture the emotion at the time of the ceremony can be a challenge when dealing with such a dynamic environment.  Expressions can also be lost at the time of the ceremony due to the nerves and feeling of being “on-stage” in front of everyone.  The session does not take away from the excitement of the ceremony since it is filled with its own incredible atmosphere and emotion.


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